The Rebel basketball team enters January and already needs to get a win to not wreck it’s season and postseason chances.
We’re not being dramatic here - Ole Miss fell to No. 68 in the NET rankings after its 20-point loss to Wichita St. on Saturday. And now it faces the No. 181 team in the country on the road that is likely a must win to get the season back on track.
Ole Miss opens Southeastern Conference play tonight in College Station against the Texas A&M Aggies. Buzz Williams’ bunch (6-6, 0-1) lost its first conference game over the weekend at Arkansas, 69-59, and has lost five of its last eight games.
The Rebels meanwhile are looking to bounce back from a humbling road trip to Wichita, Kan. where the top 25 Wichita St. Shockers beat them soundly, 74-54. Breein Tyree failed to score in double digits, and it was an extraordinarily bad shooting night for the starting five outside of Khadim Sy. Tyree, Devontae Shuler, KJ Buffen, Blake Hinson combined to go 9-of-31 from the floor.
We could easily chalk this up to a tough night, but it can’t be understated - when the starting five are off, it is going to be a long night from here on out. The bench is full of newcomers who have not yet stepped up consistently against the toughest opponents on the schedule. Entering SEC play, the Rebels have to get a consistent scoring effort from its starting five to have a chance to be special this year.
A&M is in the first year of new coach Buzz Williams and are adjusting to his style of play, getting a roster built, and the other transition pieces involved with a new head man. Williams has had success at Marquette and Virginia Tech (nine seasons with 20+ wins) prior to A&M, so it’s most likely just a matter of time before he get things improved there.
The Aggies are led down low by Josh Nebo who averages 11 points and seven rebounds per game. Guard Savion Flagg posts 11 points per as well while shooting about 37 percent from behind the three-point arc. After those two guys though, things get pretty dicey from an offensive standpoint with eight other players averaging between one and eight points per game.
One thing to watch closely tonight is the Aggies are the worst shooting team in the SEC making 23 percent of its three pointers and only 38 percent overall from the floor. That’s atrocious coming out of non-conference play, so Ole Miss has absolutely got to take advantage and get as many possessions as possible in the game to make this a win.
Coach Williams undoubtedly is going to put pressure on Tyree and ask his defense to force bad shots. In games where Tyree scores less than 10, the Rebels are 2-2 on the season, and the two wins came against Tennessee Tech and Arkansas St., hardly comparable to SEC competition. The two losses? Wichita St. and Oklahoma St. who are undoubtedly more alike what the Rebels should see in terms of competition the next two to three months.
Ole Miss begins in conference play in a similar position to last year with no huge non-conference wins but also no really bad losses. In 2019, the Rebels reeled off three straight wins in SEC play to show the conference it was going to exceed expectations. The program needs the win tonight now to meet expectations and move on to the next SEC opponent.
Line: Ole Miss -3
How to watch
Where: Reed Arena, College Station, Tex.
When: 8:00pm CST
TV: SEC Network
Online streaming: WatchESPN